Given the billions of dollars going into sponsorship deals each year, it’s clear that brands want to put themselves in the spotlight by affiliating with touchdowns, birdies and trophies. But are these partnerships really worth it?

Before stepping onto the field, there are a number of considerations for business leaders seeking to get the most out of their investment.

Finding the right fit

Sports sponsorships hold a variety of benefits: increased brand awareness, the ability to reach new customer segments, and more power to raise product or service uptake, just to name a few. However, choosing a sponsorship that aligns to your product capabilities or organisational priorities is crucial to success. In fact, associating with a successful team is great, but what’s even more powerful is finding a team that uses your products to give themselves an advantage on the field or track.

Pure Storage, for example, has been a sponsor of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team since 2015. Before it became a sponsor though, the IT team at Mercedes had already decided to adopt Pure’s technology to give them a critical edge on the track, through faster and more accurate analytics, with smaller onsite systems. It’s an alignment that creates a bond beyond simply the financial. What’s more, by creating a successful partnership, the team is able to articulate these benefits both internally and externally.

Mercedes consistently challenges Pure to do more, and do better. For example, demanding a data centre that can be assembled and disassembled every week, challenges everything any business leader knows about traditional data centre design.

It is this type of alignment that makes partnerships stand out.

Once an organisation has identified the right partnership, they should of course maximise it through traditional social media and hospitality events. Closer to home, Pure has a partnership with AFL club Collingwood FC, who uses Pure Storage technology to track hundreds of millions of data points concerning players’ on-field performance, off-field training and match day conditions. As such, the Pure team enjoys access to boxes, special events and other club associated activities. The branding aspect of the partnership is phenomenal, however, it’s the engagement with the whole club that makes it work.

What business leaders must remember

Sports sponsorships have become an integral component of business strategy, especially with big brands looking to stand out from the crowd. While costly, such sponsorships can be worthwhile if they are able to showcase the benefits of an organisation’s products under the most testing of conditions. Ultimately, providing them with a competitive advantage.

If sponsorship falls outside of your organisation’s budget, look to other forms of engagement with sporting teams. Your business could leverage the stories of customers within the sector or negotiate reduced product costs in exchange for promotion. Choosing the right engagement option for your budget, business objectives and product is key to unlocking the endless benefits a sports sponsorship can offer.